By Terry O’Neill.
Many sports involve physical contact and often only a faint margin exists between physical contact and violence.
Alleged rugby player violence in a game is under initial scrutiny by the referees/umpires who control the game. Once cited, a player is then brought before the sport’s local ruling body which is charged to come to a decision on the alleged violent incident.
Punishments can range from a warning to suspension for a number of playing days up to virtual banishment from the sport, whether the person is a player, administrator or, importantly, a spectator.
How spectators conduct themselves is particularly relevant at the onset of the winter sports season noting that violence is not exclusively a winter sport issue. The NZRFU has initiated a campaign on its policy to deal with violence that will be mirrored by other winter and summer sports.
Violence from the sidelines is usually vocal. Unfortunately incidences arise there amongst spectators and also involving players.
And where are these aggressive loud-mouths? Attend a Saturday morning winter sport and in due course they’ll cut through the air, often parents exhorting their protégées to greater heights, a loftiness the parent never achieved themselves if they had indeed played the game.
Most parents/grandparents are the great models to youngsters they should be, and are sincerely commended.
Positive support at games is the focus in “My Parents Are Ugly“, a NZRU booklet, and it reaches beyond “advice” to players. Surprisingly referees/umpires are abused by critics sometimes basing comments on aged rugby laws now obsolete.
The percentage of abusive spectators is low but their impact can be out of proportion to numbers. Fun for the players, and for their parents, is the essential element in sport. And it’s the referees, those people giving up their time, who ensure everyone else can enjoy the game.
And who at the game moans each referee rule against their darling’s team? Some spectators, and even team officials who should know better, scream “not straight, sir“, “offside, sir“, “knock on, sir“, “hands in the ruck, sir“, with a derogative title substituted sometimes, and could be forty to sixty metres away. And there are the “off-side shouters” who encourage a mob not always in a position to judge.
We welcome the pleasant banter between supporters of competing teams as part of the game. However some sports websites spell out what is, and is not, acceptable and, I hark you, they offer an electronic form to register complaints about bad behaviour.
Ever watched a game without a referee/umpire? I haven’t either. The question asked sometimes is why those public-minded individuals bother when they have to deal with yahoos and mean-minded grandstanders of ignorance.
A prerequisites for referees is not that they can walk on water. They make mistakes. Just like you, just like me.